Life Lessons

The Old Iron Bench

In an old park on the corner of an old street where few travel any more sits an old iron bench. Not like the factory made benches you see in some more modern parks, but a sturdy old wrought iron one, weathered and wearied by years but still beautiful with swirled feet and gently curved back. It once was the centerpiece of the park, which was the centerpiece of the town. Many would come and sit in the shade of the even older oak that stood behind it. It was a small park but lovely in its day – a quiet place to rest from the busy world outside.

Each day an old man would go to the coffee shop across the street and by some java and a morning paper. His heavy wool trench coat would brush the edge of the bench as he briskly walked by, in a hurry to get a fresh cup. Then he would come and sit in the shade, place his cup beside him and his tattered fedora on his knee and read his paper. When he finished his coffee he would often doze off with the paper on his lap and then jump with a start, hoping no one noticed, then quickly put his hat on and get up and go on about his day. A little while later, each day, a frail old woman would come bustling through. She always wore a bright, sky-blue overcoat with the belt synched up tight around her waist and a yellow kerchief over her silvery hair tied in a little slip-knot under her chin. She had a bit of a shuffle in her quick stride. She was on a mission and no one was going to stop her. On her way back her stride was much less swift. She had just made her daily trip to the grocer down the street and needed to catch her breath. She would sit down on the old bench and watch the people pass by for a while, nod “good day” to some, smile a tired but satisfied simile and then slowly get up, pick up her bags and shuffle along home.

Saturday mornings were usually quite busy in this little park. There was a swing set and a teeter-totter down the path a bit and the bench gave a good view for parents keeping an eye on their little ones. Sometimes the moms and dads would buy treats from the man with the ice cream cart who lingered nearby, tinkling his little bell every so often, hoping for a sale. The children would sit on the bench and eat their goodies with their parents and then run off again leaving behind sticky finger prints and drip-drops of ice cream. Many other people sat on this little bench, some more regular than others, but all for one reason or another needing a place to rest and relax a while from their busy lives.

As the town grew and new and bigger parks were built, this little one bench park with a towering oak became seldom used. People would walk through occasionally but never stop and sit. The playground equipment was moved to another park and the man with the treat cart never came on Saturday mornings any more. Now it is little more than a patch of grass on a quiet street corner – hardly noticed, barely remembered – but that little iron bench is there. A memory of how times used to be when life wasn’t moving so fast and there was time to sit and rest for a bit.

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